INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer has been charged after a video surfaced of a confrontation involving the officer and an Indianapolis Public Schools student.
The video that went viral last month shows the officer, Robert Lawson, allegedly punching a student. Lawson and other officers were originally called to Shortridge High School for a hallway fight between juveniles.
When one of those teens was being escorted off the school's property, the student's aunt got involved and things got physical.
A list of charges were filed against Lawson on Monday, ranging from battery, obstruction of justice, perjury, false informing and official misconduct. A prosecutor in the case, Ryan Mears, explained the charges.
"The video evidence as well as the witness statements directly contradict Officer Lawson's report," Mears said. "There are a number of not only inaccuracies, but full statements that relate to material facts which is why we decided it was appropriate to file those additional charges."
When asked if the charges would have been possible without video evidence of Lawson's physical contact with the student, Marion County prosecutor Terry Curry said "probably not."
According to prosecutors, Lawson made false statements when he allegedly hit the 17-year-old high school student in an altercation late August. The officer claimed he hit the teen with an open palm strike in fear that the student was going to hit him.
He then said they were able to cuff the teen without further force. But prosecutors say video shows that was not true.
They say the video appears to show the officer, rather, punching the student and also hitting the teen in the abdomen with his knee while cuffing him.
According to charging documents, Lawson also said another officer present during the incident saw the student swing his fist at Lawson before he hit him. However, that officer denied ever making that statement.
Mears hopes both the community and police receive a message from the charges Lawson faces.
"Hopefully, the message that everyone's going to be treated fairly," Mears said. "And that we're going to assess everyone based on on their conduct."
Prosecutor Curry also added that by no means is he does he excuse the officers behavior, but he said the student's aunt was screaming, yelling and cursing at officers in the video. Curry said the whole circumstance would have been avoided if adults could act like adults.
John Kautzman, the attorney representing Lawson issued the following statement early Tuesday morning.
" We look forward to a full and fair review of ALL the evidence in this case, including the officer's observations, perceptions and training as it relates to the entirety of this encounter. "